My fourth year at Coppercreek Camp, just north of Lake Tahoe, was one of the best. I solidified my friend group, advanced in the Certified Horsemanship Association, completed the high ropes course blindfolded, and tried almost every activity offered—except riflery, which I was frankly scared of trying, let alone being around.
One afternoon, my Montanan roommate, Sam, often at riflery, walked into our mosquito-filled cabin. I’d been thinking about how to ask him what he enjoyed about riflery, but I was scared that he would be hostile or dismissive. When I had the nerve to ask him, he sassily responded, “What do you enjoy about archery?” Fair enough. As we shared our differences, I realized how our upbringings, mine in an urban center and Sam’s in the country, shaped our polarizing views on these activities. I saw a rifle, which he regarded as a survival tool, as a threat to mine. But why didn’t I feel the same way about archery? Simply put, I’d never heard of anyone launching arrows at Pier 39 tourists, but Sam probably never heard of any restaurants being shot up John Wayne style.
While these ideological differences may have separated us on one front, another surfaced where we established common ground. Sam’s use of firearms for food brought up a practice that wasn’t all that strange to me: his family uses the whole animal, showing respect to the animal after death. I understood his position as many of my friends became vegetarians, vegans, and pescatarians out of consideration for animals. After sharing our views, a fresh understanding bloomed as our similarities emerged from our differences.
Throughout life, I realize I will be challenged, but rather than stubbornly hold onto my opinion, I will always give others a chance to speak. Developing my skills to be a receptive individual both inside and outside the classroom has given me time to reflect on my biases, the experiences that shape my growing mind, and the inherent variability of those around me.